How to Improve Live Streaming Quality in 8 Steps [2021 Update]

how to improve stream quality

Buffering, lagging and low resolution are issues that we’ve likely all experienced as viewers. These quality issues can be extremely frustrating and leave viewers with a poor view of a brand.

Luckily, streaming quality is increasing across the board. Reported video start failures are down 33% year-over-year, buffering is down 41% and picture quality is up 25%. This is all made possible with new and improved technology and updated best practices.

To help you create high-quality live streams, this post takes a look at the technical changes you can make to produce the best live video content. We’ll discuss everything you need to know from the settings to use on your encoder to how to choose the best OVP.

Table of Contents

  • The Importance of Live Streaming Quality
  • How to Improve Stream Quality in 8 Steps
    • Invest in High-Quality Live Streaming Equipment
    • Optimize Your Live Encoder Settings
    • Use a Professional Online Video Platform
    • Choose a Powerful CDN
    • Use a Reliable Internet Connection
    • Enable Multi-Bitrate Streaming
    • Test Thoroughly
    • Choose the Optimal Resolution
  • Conclusion

The Importance of Live Streaming Quality

live streaming video quality resolution
The quality of your live stream can make or break a viewer’s experience.

One of the most common goals among professional broadcasters is to create a positive viewer experience. The quality of a live stream directly impacts that experience. Since live stream quality is so important to the viewer, it should be important to broadcasters, as well.

Research shows that professional broadcasters risk losing up to 25% of their revenue when the quality of their streams is less than desirable. Even with money aside, it simply makes sense to create content that your viewers enjoy watching.

With access to the technology we have today, it is both easy and affordable to improve stream quality. 

How to Improve Stream Quality in 8 Steps

When it comes to professional broadcasting, “high quality” and “professional” are nearly synonymous. There are several measures you can take to ensure that your video quality is the best it can be. Taking these measures will help you provide your viewers with the best experience.

Here are 8 things that you can do to improve the quality of your professional broadcast.

1. Invest in High-Quality Live Streaming Equipment

high quality live streaming equipment
Professional grade recording equipment is a must for producing high-quality streams.

The streaming equipment that you use will make or break the quality of your live stream. Professional broadcasters need professional-grade equipment.

Full HD or 4K cameras are the best options for professional broadcasting. Cell phones and consumer-grade cameras may suffice for Twitch and YouTube streamers, but B2B broadcasters should invest, in professional live streaming equipment to provide a top-notch user experience.

One major reason for this is that if your original recording is of poor quality, there is nothing you can do to improve it. That’s why using a good quality camera will provide the best possible image from the moment it is captured.

For an in-depth guide on cameras for live streaming, check out our camera recommendation guide.

2. Optimize Your Live Encoder Settings

live streaming encoder
An encoder is essential to improving stream quality.

A video encoder is used for almost all live streams. A software or hardware encoder is a tool that converts your live video into streaming compatible formats. Encoding your video content is what allows it to transmit to your video streaming platform to stream live or on-demand to your viewers.

Your encoder has a lot to do with the quality of your live stream. What it comes down to is using the optimal settings for the video player on your live streaming website.

Here are our recommended live encoder settings:

VIDEO CODEC H.264 (x264 may work)
FRAME RATE 25 or 30
KEYFRAME INTERVAL 2 secs (or 2x frame rate)
SCANNING Progressive
ENCODING BITRATE Constant (CBR)
AUDIO CODEC AAC
AUDIO BITRATE 128 kbps
AUDIO CHANNELS 2 (Stereo)
AUDIO SAMPLE RATE 48 kHz (48,000 Hz)

These settings are required for streaming live video with Dacast, regardless of your selected resolution and bitrate. There is often a sweet spot that is determined by the size of the video you are streaming and what your viewers’ internet connection will withstand.

There are other important encoder settings related to video resolution, video bitrate, and audio bitrate. For more information, read our full guide to live streaming encoder settings.

3. Use a Professional Online Video Platform

live streaming online video platform
The OVP that you choose to use plays a huge role in the improvement of live streaming quality.

Maximize your video streaming quality by selecting the right online video platform (OVP). An OVP provides streaming solutions for managing and hosting video content. They usually also provide other tools for monetization, security, and so on.

There are three features to look for that will help you maintain high-quality streams.

  1. CDN or a content delivery network: How does the OVP distribute content?
  2. Resolution: Look for an OVP that allows you to broadcast in full 1080P HD.
  3. Support: Choose an OVP that offers 24/7 customer support so that you don’t find yourself in a pinch without anybody to help you troubleshoot your live streaming issues.

Dacast is a great streaming solution that offers all of these useful features. You can learn more about the full range of features that we offer on our website.

4. Choose a Powerful CDN

As we touched upon in the OVP section, the video CDN that your OVP uses makes a world of difference in your viewers’ experience. 

A CDN (Content Delivery Network), is the system of proxy servers that are used to distribute content. The best video hosting platforms integrate with powerful CDNs. Look for an OVP that uses a reliable, global content delivery network.

You want to choose a live streaming CDN that has a decent-sized distribution network. More than 100,000 servers are ideal. This will help you bring high-quality streaming to viewers in a wider geographical region.

5. Use a Reliable Internet Connection

how to increase bitrate
Did you know that if you want to increase bitrates, upload speed is typically more important than download speeds?

When you broadcast streaming video, you need sufficient internet speed to sustain the streaming. For live video, your upload bandwidth should be at least twice your broadcast bitrate.

Here is a quick calculation on how to increase bitrate and determine your broadcast bitrate: add your video bitrate to your audio bitrate. If you are broadcasting in multi-bitrates, add all of them together. 

Then, you can test your internet speed by searching “internet speed test” on Google. Google has a built-in tool that will give you both your upload and download speeds. For broadcasters, the upload speed is typically more important than download speed.

When you’re choosing an internet connection, we recommend favoring ethernet over a wireless connection since WiFi can be unstable. If WiFi is your only option, move close to the router to ensure a clear signal.

Here are a few more recommendations for getting the most out of your connection:

  • If possible, use a wired Ethernet connection. WiFi can be unstable.
  • If you must use WiFi, move close to the router to ensure a clear signal.
  • Close unnecessary web browsers and applications to free up bandwidth.
  • Remove other devices from the network. Every additional device on a network draws more bandwidth.
  • If necessary, purchase a faster internet plan. 

Additionally, it is a good idea to close unnecessary web browsers and applications to free up bandwidth. Remove other devices from the network if possible. Every additional device on a network draws more bandwidth. If necessary, purchase a faster internet plan. 

Although it is out of your control as a broadcaster, we’d also like to point out that the emergence of 5G cellular data will cut latency, reduce buffering and increase video quality.

6. Transcoding and Multi-Bitrate Streaming

multi-bitrate streaming
Using software that measures your viewers’ internet speed is important to keep the broadcast the best quality stream.

Another way that your OVP can influence video streaming quality is through transcoding your video into different renditions to make multi-bitrate streaming possible.

Multi-bitrate streaming refers to the process of sending a live stream out in multiple different qualities at once. 

When it comes to bitrate, modern video players are adaptive. This means that they automatically detect the viewer’s internet speed and adjust accordingly. For a viewer on a slow connection, they’ll deliver a lower quality video. For those on a fast connection, the video quality will be higher.

This is dependent on your OVP’s offering of video transcoding tools and multi-bitrate streaming capabilities. Not every platform supports these features, make sure your OVP supports them.

7. Test Thoroughly

live streaming case studies
Run through your stream and test the limits of your equipment and software before the real deal.

Streaming video has a lot of moving parts, so testing before you start your stream is a great idea. Knowing what to look for when testing is half of the battle.

Use these questions as a guide for your pre-stream testing:

  • Test video embeds on your website. Does everything look correct?
  • If using multi-bitrate streaming, test video quality at different bitrate levels. Are different levels available and viewable?
  • Test videos on both slow and fast internet connections. Is buffering minimal?
  • Conduct a test transitioning from fast to slow internet. Does the video player adapt?
  • Do some stress testing for encoders, cameras, and other live streaming equipment. Will equipment fail under load?
  • Test your total workflow. Make a test live stream and broadcast privately. Does everything work properly?

If your video streaming software and equipment do well with all of these tests, you should be good to go.

8. Choose the Optimal Resolution

video streaming resolution
Choose the optimal resolution to provide a clear image without lagging.

Although they are related to encoder settings, resolution and video aspect ratios are so important that they need a section of their own.

Choosing the perfect resolution requires a bit of a trade-off. Naturally, you want to use the best video resolution possible so that your viewers have a crystal clear view of your video. However, the “highest resolution” does not equal the “best resolution” when it comes to live streaming.

You want a resolution that provides a clear image without being too big to transmit without lagging. Professional broadcasters typically opt for 1280 x 720 pixels (720p) or 1920 x 1080 pixels (1080p).

Conclusion

As a broadcaster, maximizing the quality of your broadcasts is a must. This post should give you a decent grip on how to improve your stream quality. 

These are only a few of the suggested methods for dealing with the most common video streaming quality problems, but you can pop onto the Dacast streaming knowledgebase for more articles on all things streaming.

When you are planning to invest in a powerful streaming solution, it makes sense to try before you buy. You can also try Dacast risk-free for 30 days by signing up now. No credit card required.

Do you have further questions or comments about broadcasting with Dacast and implementing these best practices? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

For regular live streaming tips and exclusive offers, you can join the Dacast LinkedIn group.

2 thoughts on “How to Improve Live Streaming Quality in 8 Steps [2021 Update]

    • Etienne Noualhat says:

      Hey Ken! Streaming can work everywhere with Akamai CDN, but I don’t understand your use of WhatsApp here?

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